Empty Spaces

“You love when I’m empty…”

I heard this line recently when I was listening to a new worship song, and it slapped me in the face.

How can God love it when I am empty?

I thought about the idea of emptiness and what that means to me. When something is empty, we immediately want to fill it up. I know when the paper towel roll is empty, I want to run downstairs to get a new roll to fill the dispenser. When we are almost out of dog treats and the jar begins to look empty- I know I’m going to be in trouble the next day when I bring my dogs inside from a walk unless I fill up the jar again.

And yet, there are some things we keep “full” that don’t necessarily need to be filled. Like my stomach, lol.

The idea of emptiness gives me a sense of longing… that something is not complete.

But that line struck me. Does God love it when I’m empty?

I thought about Jesus feeding the 5000 people with only 5 loaves of bread and two fish. I bet that basket looked pretty empty to the disciples that day.

And yet, that emptiness gave God room to do a miracle.

When we are empty, we long for more.

When we are empty, we have nothing left.

When we are empty, we are completely dependent on what He has to give us.

Where can you make an empty space in your life for God?

You love when I’m empty…”

Available

One morning I woke up and I knew that the Lord was asking me to do something. When this happens, I am on a mission… obsessed with completing whatever the “thing” is the Lord wants me to do.

This “thing” was getting the Covid vaccine. I will admit to you that I was on the fence for a while about it. I am healthy, not high risk at all, but I knew that if the Lord wanted me to do it that I would know. And one morning my hubby called me while I was working and asked me about getting it. As soon as we finished our conversation, I knew that the Lord wanted me to do it.

So I checked numerous websites, and finally ended up waiting in an online list. I knew it might be a while, because it kept saying “wait time over one hour”. Now, this was just the site to sign up for a time for the vaccine. And so I kept waiting… and waiting… and waiting…

And nearly 5 HOURS LATER, I was sent to the home screen to sign up for a time. I entered my zip code, and it said no appointments available.

I really really wanted to throw the laptop across the room.

I had waited 5 hours…5 HOURS… only to end up right back at square one.

I knew if the Lord really did want me to do it, that He would make a way for it to happen, so I resigned myself to not thinking about it anymore this week.

And then something really cool happened.

I was supposed to teach some make-up music lessons this week, and then ended up not needing to do it. Guess how many hours these lessons equalled? Yep- 5 hours! Those hours I spent waiting for a non-existent appointment were given back to me in the form of rest.

And then another really cool thing happened.

My husband received an email this morning from a coworker asking if he wanted to receive a vaccine today, and that one of the clinics had vaccine appointments available and spouses were also welcome to receive one, too. I told him that was totally a God thing- and that we should definitely do it. We went, received our vaccines, and it could not have been easier.

I used to be fearful of stepping out of the “boat” to do the things I felt God telling me to do.

Not anymore.

These days, I fear NOT doing the thing the Lord asks me to do- because He is ALWAYS faithful. His ways and thoughts are so much higher and wiser than mine, so when I hear that still, small voice- I answer “yes” every time!

I want to always be available for Him. When I do whatever the “thing” is that God asks me to do, I am immediately filled with peace.

So my 5 hours didn’t end up in an appointment- but God made another way.

After all, He is the WAYMAKER ūüôā

In Tune

I had an “aha” moment recently.

Owning two pianos, tuning them regularly can be quite costly. I have a pretty good ear and can tell when a note begins to sound “off”, so I decided to look up tuning kits to see how affordable they were. Much to my surprise, they were pretty inexpensive, so I purchased a piano tuning kit and couldn’t wait for my package to arrive. I mean- how hard could it be to tune a piano?!

My baby grand piano is nearly 100 years old, and has a couple of notes that are notoriously wonky. I love the quirks of owning an antique piano, but I have begun avoiding playing certain notes because they have become so incredibly out of tune- even an untrained ear could hear the somber sound.

The kit arrived on a Sunday afternoon (thanks, Amazon!) and it was like Christmas morning all over again! I watched a couple of videos on piano tuning ahead of time, so I knew a little bit about what I was in for.

I went right to the worst offender- my bass C note- notably the most played key on my piano. I opened the top of the piano and found the bolt that needed adjusting. I loaded a tuning app onto my phone and then placed the tuning wrench on the bolt and pulled it ever so slightly. It didn’t take much turning to change the pitch, but boy did I have to pull to get that bolt to move! A little to the left, a little to the right, and that C sang like a songbird!

But something peculiar happened.

As I played, I noticed that other notes were ever so slightly under pitch compared to the C… so I began tweaking a few more, then even more… until I began at the lowest note and started to work up.

Let me just say that this process was more difficult than I thought! My hands ached from gripping and pulling the tuning wrench, my back was sore from bending over the piano, and it took me hours. But it was totally worth it! And I have a completely new understanding and appreciation for piano technicians and the amount of skill it takes to do this for a living!

I kept thinking about how tuning a piano is so much like being “in tune” with the Holy Spirit. The more you begin to listen and adjust things in your life that are out of tune to Him, the more things you see that need adjusting. I’ll be honest- it is hard for me not to pull out that tuning fork every day to double check the pitches on the piano… but once I start tuning, it will reveal others that also need to be adjusted.

But that’s what our walk with Jesus is about… being in a constant state of tuning to Him.

Tuning our thoughts to His thoughts… our words to His Word… our heart to His.

Abide in me, and I in you- John 15:4

Open my eyes

One evening last week, my voice student became MY teacher.

It had been a busy day-but a good one!

I began to play the song we were working on, and I noticed my student had fixed her gaze on the wall above the door.

“What are you staring at?” I asked her, curiously.

“The clock! When I watch the clock, the time goes by slowly.”

I looked at her a little funny.

Then she added “My voice lessons go by so quickly and I don’t want it to end!”

She flashed me her joyous smile, and I had to fight back the tears.

Because the good Lord convicted me of all the times I have hoped for the time to pass quickly-

so I can go on to the next thing.

He reminded me of all the times I am thinking of what needs to be done when I get home,

my “to-do” list for the next day- instead of being fully present in the moment.

When we walk with the Lord, in each and every moment there is JOY to be found.

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.- Psalm 16:11

My daughter made me this musical mask ūüôā

when the building gets in the way

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There once was a place where we’d go¬†

to take in a heavenly show 

but that marvelous sight 

has been blocked by the height 

of a building- causing me so much woe ;( 

For the last (almost) 16 years, my husband and I would drive into Charlottesville and park in a special spot to watch the sunset- A busy parking lot with a million dollar view. There are two park benches that overlook the city with a perfect view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. ¬†This has been our “spot” for years, and I have lost count of how many times we have gone there together to worship God’s creation.

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In this spot, we have bonded over talks about our kids, reminisced about our past, dreamed about our future… and we have praised God for His many blessings. In this spot, we have gone over all the crazy “God” things that happened to cause us to move to Charlottesville all those years ago. ¬†I remember the first time I drove down route 250 heading into Charlottesville- it was as if God told me I was home.

And now a rather large church building has changed the skyline where we used to sit to watch the sunset.  Kind of ironic that a building for people to worship God has physically gotten in the way of the view of what makes this city so beautiful.

But that has got me to thinking…

Has a building gotten in your way? 

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Now that the church building is closed due to the pandemic, I see how a building has gotten in the way of being the “church”.

So much of the church has been focused one one goal-  Sunday mornings!

But now that we are unable to use the building to gather, I see how narrow minded my view of ¬†“church” at times had become.

Over these last 6 weeks, our world has drastically changed- but I can see¬†how resilient the church has become- and it’s inspiring!

-I see pastors of all denominations and all ages putting themselves out there on social media- making videos, sharing devotionals, encouraging people, actually BEING the church- and reaching far more people!

-I see people donating food to food banks, making face masks for healthcare workers, delivering groceries, generously supporting small businesses and helping one another.

-I see people being more intentional in their relationships- writing and mailing cards, actually having phone conversations, texting, FaceTiming, and even Zoom-ing.

-I see countless churches offering online worship services- making worship accessible to everyone at anytime!

-I see people not waiting until Sunday morning to “have” church, but people BEING the church every day!

And I have hope.

Maybe this is what Church was supposed to look like all along.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

1 Corinthians 3:16

seeds

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This past Sunday, as I sat down at the keyboard on the stage at church, I noticed something on the keys.  There was some kind of seed resting on middle C.  A sunflower seed perhaps?

The strange thing is- I NEVER eat on the stage at church, and don’t recall seeing anyone else eat either. ¬†I usually play the piano, but for the past 3 weeks or so, I have been using the keyboard to lead worship.

So where this seed came from is a complete mystery!

But it was a great reminder that morning to keep the faith.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‚ÄėMove from here to there,‚Äô and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. – Matthew 17:20¬†

We have to continue to fix our eyes on Jesus, moment by moment, and believe that things WILL get better!

And any obstacles you are facing today-

He may not REMOVE them,

but He WILL see you THROUGH them!

‚ÄúI have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.‚ÄĚ – John 16:33

 

leaning

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we’re in a time¬†

of “leaning”-¬†

all our excess 

stripped away 

we’re in a time¬†

of leaning 

on our Savior 

 day by day

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This is a strange season we are in.

Just a few short weeks ago I was excitedly planning Easter festivities at church, my girls were anticipating their spring concerts and trips with band, and my hubby was gearing up for another busy tax season.

And then came Corona…¬†

It seems like life as we know it has come to a screeching halt.

Alone with my thoughts, I have come to realize how many things I have taken for granted.

Like my trips to Starbucks for egg bites and flat whites…those weekly galavants to the thrift store to socialize with strangers and to get lost in my thoughts sifting through junk…meeting friends for lunch and coffee…having the house to myself throughout the week to clean and organize…. but of everything, having “church”- this is the biggest for me. ¬†I miss being able to hug my church family every week. ¬†I miss seeing all the smiling faces and being together in person to praise the Lord on Sundays.

And yet here we are- all going through this strange season together.

We’ve been stripped of everything that isn’t necessary for our survival.

And yet, even in the midst of uncertainty, I have peace.

In these “lean” times- may we lean into Him!¬†

“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning,
safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning, leaning,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
leaning on the everlasting arms. 

-E.A. Hoffman (1894)

this much

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How much does God love you?

One of my fondest childhood memories is of my dad asking me and my sister if we knew how much he loved us.

This much? Рhe would say as he open his arms a little bit.

Thiiis much?  He would open his arms a little bit wider.

Thiiiiiiiiiis  much!  And then he would stretch his arms out as wide as they could reach.

It is hard to quantify love and our capacity to love in tangible ways, but yesterday I saw a glimpse of how much God loves me.

I tweaked my back yesterday morning- simply bending over to give my dogs a treat of all things.  The pain was so severe- I felt sick to my stomach all day from it.

And since both my oldest daughter and my hubby are working all day, ¬†my youngest daughter and I were supposed to spend the day together doing whatever she wanted to do. ¬†Shopping- of course ūüėČ

If you have a teen, you know that shopping days aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. ¬†Shopping with her brings back a flood of emotions from my own childhood. ¬†Nothing ever fit me- and anything that I liked, or that actually fit- was waaaay out of my price range. ¬†Shopping always sounded like a better idea than it actually was.

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So after trying on lots of clothes and not finding anything, my daughter picked out a pair of earrings.  Earrings ALWAYS fit-  and she really needed another pair.

We went to another store and after trying several things on, we left empty handed.  Again.  

As we sat in the car, I began to tear up remembering what it felt like to go clothes shopping at her age.  The earrings she was wearing were hurting her ears, so she took out the new pair to put them on.  As soon as she got the first one out of the box, it slipped out of her hand and lodged itself in between the car seat and the middle console.

 Now we were both crying!

My back was hurting so bad, but not as badly as I wanted to find that earring for her!

I hobbled around to the back seat and could see the earring laying on the floorboard- but it was on the crease of two pieces of carpet.  As soon as I reached for it, it slipped between the crease and then it was out of reach.  I tried everything I could to get it and then out of the blue a man and his daughter came over to the car.

Is everything ok?  He asked me.

Yeah- my daughter just lost her new earring….

Let me see if I can get it.  

And like that- he was on his knees, pulling the carpet back, pushing the car seat to and fro. At one point, he was trying so hard to reach it, he cut his hand on something under the seat.

It’s ok- we will look for it later-¬†I said, knowing this earring was probably not going to be found.

Let me keep trying- I might be able to get it! 

He looked for at least 15 minutes for that earring. ¬†He could feel it, but was unable to grab it. ¬†It meant so much that this stranger and his daughter cared enough to try to help us. ¬†Even though he wasn’t able to get the earring for us- it was like he felt my momma heart breaking.

He asked me how much the earrings cost.

I said several times that they were cheap, it wasn’t a big deal. ¬†And then without a second thought, he pulled out his wallet and handed me money.

I can’t take this, I told him. ¬†The earrings didn’t even cost that much. ¬†Really- it’s ok! I’m just thankful you tried to help us!¬†

And then he said something I won’t forget-

“I love making people happy. ¬†I don’t want your daughter to be sad. ¬†It makes me happy to make others happy. ¬†I want her to be happy today.”

I began to cry tears of joy.

My daughter and I both hugged this man and his daughter. ¬†I told him he was an angel and that he had really blessed me today. ¬†Not only did he go through all that to try to get the earring- but then he actually gave her money to replace it?! ¬†It didn’t make sense! I tried to give the money back to him but he wouldn’t take it.

He and his daughter disappeared into the store and as I got into the car with my daughter, I was overwhelmed by God’s love. ¬†That random act of kindness came at the exact moment we needed it.

Do you know how much God loves you?

Thiiissss much- 

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Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 63:7

more than a feeling

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focusing on feelings 

leaves my heart reeling 

and my goal becomes 

a far distant dream 

but when I instead

plan each step ahead  

the destination’s¬†

not as far 

as it seems 

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I had an “aha” moment this morning. ¬†Yeah, that happens occasionally- but not as often as I’d like ūüôā

I really wanted to start working out again- for no other reason than it’s good for your body to move. ¬†I needed to do something that was easy and didn’t require a lot of thought, so I decided to download one of those “couch to 5k” apps. ¬†I love those because it takes the guesswork out of your workouts. ¬†3 days a week, all I have to do is start the app and get on the treadmill and it tells me when to run and when to walk. ¬†Easy enough!

Until this past week.

I have been doing this for 4 weeks now, and instead of getting easier- it is definitely getting more challenging. ¬†I haven’t missed a single workout, and I have run/walked every minute the app has told me to.

But this morning I got up and dreaded it. ¬†I knew I’d be running for even longer bursts today… and I was already tired before I even got out of bed! But I had already laid out what I needed to “get my workout on” the night before

“Stop thinking about how you feel, ” I kept saying to myself over and over. ¬†“Just do it!”¬†

I pulled my hair back into a ponytail, and slipped on the headband. ¬†I went through all the steps… and then my oldest daughter saw me in the kitchen.

“What in the world are you doing?” she asked me when she saw my crazy head gear and my outfit.

“I’m trying to get in the mood to do the treadmill this morning.”

And as I had this conversation with her this morning, I was struck with the idea that my girls are always watching me.  Not just what I say to them- but what I do.

I want to be a person of my word- someone who follows through. Someone who sets goals and accomplishes them. ¬†I always talk to the girls about how important it is to not to be led by their “feelings”… and here I was, ready to take the morning off from working out- simply because I didn’t “feel” like doing it.

But the simple action of doing what I had planned on doing the night before kept me on track.

My shoes were by my bed when I woke up.  Headband was put on my night stand.  And I slept in my workout clothes (yes- they were clean!)

So I went downstairs and as soon as I took the first step on the treadmill, it was like He was carrying me.  He gave me every ounce of energy I needed to complete my goal.

I finished, and came upstairs to both girls sitting on the couch.

They asked how my run was.

It was hard, but good. ¬†It wasn’t easy- but nothing worth doing ever is!

And the best part?

My daughter said she’s going to get on the treadmill when she gets home today, too.

“Failing to plan… is planning to fail.”¬†

Set your mind on things above- Colossians 3:2 

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good things come…

Isn’t it funny how some days don’t seem to start off on the right foot…and then by the end of the day, you look back and see how it was one of the very best days?

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The gorgeous moon at the end of my day! 

I woke up one day with a feeling of dread. ¬†There were several things I had to do, and some days “adulting” is hard work, lol! ¬†But there is an undeniable feeling like I’ve conquered the world when those tasks are accomplished! ¬†I set aside my “feelings” and got right to getting my business done.

Around lunchtime that day, I stopped in to see someone who was in the hospital. ¬†After the visit, I meandered through the lobby and heard the sounds of Christmas Carols being played on the grand piano. ¬†I decided to sit for a few minutes to take in the music. ¬†So often I am the one playing the piano- and it was so nice to be on the other end and to be able to appreciate this lady’s musical gift. ¬†After a few songs, ¬†the Lord prompted me to go into the cafe to get a cup of coffee. ¬†It was a little strange for me to do- since I had JUST had a cup, but I got up and got into the line. ¬†An older gentleman was ahead of me in the line, and he turned around to me and said this-

“I’ve been here a looooong time… and I want to warn you- this lady isn’t very fast.” ¬†He smiled as he said it- so I could tell he wasn’t in a big hurry.

I said to him- “What’s that saying- good things come to those who wait? ¬†Hopefully whatever we’re getting will be worth the wait!”

He asked me if I worked at the hospital, and I told him no- that I was visiting someone.  I told him I was a pastor and shared with him the various things I do at my church.  He then said he was here with his wife, who had lots of health issues. They used to go to church but recently stopped attending.  We had the nicest conversation and like that- the line had dwindled and he made his purchase.

I paid for my cup of coffee and saw the gentleman sitting with his wife just outside of the coffee shop.  I walked over to them and I introduced myself to his beautiful wife.  You would have never known she was sick.  She was stunning- I would even say she was glowing that day.

“Would you mind if I prayed for you?” ¬†I asked the lady.

“I would love that.”

I knelt down and put my arms around them both and prayed.  I watched them reach for each others hands.  They were holding their hands so tightly together that I could see them shaking.

It was such a beautiful moment.

The carols being played on the piano across the room… people passing by… couples sitting in the cafe…

and you know who else was present?

Jesus.

Good things will always come when we walk with Jesus.

He Himself IS GOOD and He is always up to something good around us-

if we will keep our eyes open!

For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.- Zephaniah 3:17 

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